Borderlands 3 is sensory overload. It’s being showered in multicolored guns. It’s having over the top dialogue yelled at you in the middle of a firefight. It’s arguing over loot drops while one of your friends pets your skag 15 times in one minute. It’s mayhem. And it’s awesome.
Set after the events of Borderlands 2 and the TellTale adventure game Tales from the Borderlands, Borderlands 3 follows a new generation of Vault Hunters. Lead by the powerful siren Lilith, you and your friends race across colorful and varied worlds in order to find the great vault before the Calypso twins and their army of fanatical psychos can. Along the way, you meet and fight alongside familiar faces from previous Borderlands games while making new friends and enemies.
Guns remain the biggest selling point of the game. Borderlands has always set itself up to have ridiculous guns, but 3 really ups the ante. Different gun manufacturers have different properties, ranging from guns that you use as thrown explosives instead of reloading, or bouncing off bullets when you land a critical hit. Aside from the starting weapon, you’ll rarely find a gun that simply shoots bullets when you pull the trigger. Indeed, the randomly-generated guns you can find are what you build your entire game plan around. Jakobs guns that ricochet bullets when you get crits will force you to make every shot count, while the Children of the Vault’s bottomless magazines pulled straight from your ammo supply might be better suited to constant aggression.
This time around, the Vault Hunters themselves wind up being as versatile as the myriad guns that seem to pour out of every chest and enemy. Players have more than one action skill that they can choose from, allowing for more variety in your builds. I picked FL4K the Beastmaster, who always has a stat-boosting and damage dealing pet in addition to his action skill. I found out that Fade Away – a skill that turns you invisible and grants you guaranteed critical hits – paired extremely well with Jakobs shotguns, and encounters quickly became laser light shows of ultra-powerful bullets bouncing around the room.
Being the third installment of the series, there’s a lot that newcomers won’t be able to pick up on. As a sort of grand finale, the game brings back beloved characters, many of whom were playable in the past. People unfamiliar with the series won’t really get a lot of joy from their returns, but for fans of Borderlands and its characters, it’s pretty much constant fanservice. The first chapter of the game, taking place on Pandora, even has Vaughn from Tales from the Borderlands make a return. It’s certainly been a treat to find out what characters like Rhys and Maya were up to following the ends of their stories – but I won’t spoil it here. And with how often you travel from planet to planet, you’ll find out a lot about the wider universe of Borderlands – from the planet-wide power plays of megacorporations to the goings-on of the people caught between. Each world has its own unique feel to it, providing a variety of environments that Pandora would never have accommodated.
That isn’t to say that the new characters aren’t a joy to be around, though. The Calypso twins take center stage as the game’s antagonists, much like Handsome Jack in 2. A pair of powerful sirens leading a cult dedicated to worshipping them as gods. The two of them have managed to unite the bandit clans of Pandora into a singular cause under their rule, and they’re an ever-present threat on any of the worlds you visit. The Calypsos are styled like evil livestreamers, their evil broadcasts showing up rather frequently on TVs in-game. The way they’re presented seems to parody streaming culture as a whole, and their introduction as you raid their “Holy Broadcast Center” was probably the first big laugh that the game got from me.
The series’ irreverent tone is back, for better or worse. The writing in Borderlands has always been rather hit and miss, with the series hitting its ridiculous peak in 2. I personally wasn’t a fan of it, but it did have its moments. Borderlands 3 carries the tone forward, but spreads it out rather evenly. In my opinion, the writing in 3 is a step up from the previous entries. Maybe it’s because Borderlands 2’s humor aged poorly, but 3 seems to have exercised some restraint with the jokes. Still, at times the jokes can come off as a bit too self referential, the delivery marred by the game occasionally lampshading its own humor with all the subtlety of someone jabbing you in the ribs with their elbow. I wouldn’t recommend going into 3 if you’re looking for a deep story, but if you want to get into ridiculous, ludicrous mayhem and hijinks with your friends, then Borderlands 3 is just the game for you.